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Posted By Jim Hutchinson, Jr., May 18, 2020
A view from the top deck of the Big Mohawk on Sunday, where Capt. Chris Hueth said he was thrilled to be fishing again with a limited group of customers. “It was great to be out on the ocean today and we saw good results,” Capt. Chris said, noting jigs seemed to work best for the sea bass. “We had a nice shot of ling mixed in,” the skipper added, reporting he’s taking reservations going forward as per the new state for-hire guidelines.

I got home from doing a little striper fishing behind Beach Haven with my daughter on Saturday morning (as I said, “little striper fishing”), washed off the bug spray (the gnats were ungodly) and was able to plop myself in front of my laptop in time for the governor’s 1 p.m. press briefing.

As you can imagine, I was pretty excited to put a post together for The Fisherman’s website (NJ For-Hire Fishing & Boat Rentals Reopen) early Saturday afternoon. I got kicked in the teeth later after reviewing the governor’s complete executive order. The lead line in my Sunday follow-up story that appeared online (NJ "Per-Head" Limit Hampers Headboats) comes from one of my favorite musicians, Tom Waits; it pretty accurately puts the whole experience into perspective:

“The large print giveth, and the small print taketh away.”

Opening the for-hire community for fishing as of Sunday was great news; suffice to say, a 10-patron limit doesn’t make much economic sense for those running Coast Guard inspected vessels able to carry upwards of 50 to 100 passengers. Thus, I’ve decided to start refraining from the term “party boat” for now on, fearful of confusing legislators, bureaucrats and talking heads who fail to understand our coastal fishing heritage in New Jersey.

“This ain’t no party. This ain’t not disco...”

Not those Talking Heads of course. But in case “party boat” gives anyone in Trenton the perception that anglers traveling aboard our larger inspected vessels are Snooki loving booze-cruisers gyrating under strobe lights, perhaps the term “headboat” (charging anglers per head) is the better way to go. Let’s hope our advocates in the state capital will have some luck getting through to the higher powers in Trenton in time for the fluke opener.

“We've got to fight the powers that be.”

Most certainly, recreational fishermen are not the public enemy in this fight; hash tag fishthoughit, hash tag letusfishgov (sorry, my daughter said putting “hash tag” in front of words and phrases makes them more popular on the interweb).

Field editor JB Kasper said the North Jersey action continues to impress. “This past week not only saw bass topping the 50-pound mark caught, but also good numbers of blues, some black drum and plenty of catch and release fluke,” JB told me this week while submitting his weekly report, adding “Sea bass also got off to a very good start and all indications are that the fluke season will see some good numbers of flatties when it opens.

Moving down the shore a bit, Central Jersey reporter Ashley Viola said the nice weather heading into the weekend got anglers back in the fishing spirit. “Many folks limited out on sea bass and got ling, cod, and pollock in the mix,” Ashley said, noting folks trolling out front are having some luck with good-sized striped bass. She said the Central Jersey surf is heating up with both striped bass and bluefish, and provided the season’s first reports of bluefin offshore.

“It was a fantastic week for drum fishing from Great Bay down to Delaware Bay,” noted South Jersey reporter Anthony Califano, reporting private boaters on the board with fish into the 70-pound range. “Some surf anglers are also getting in on the drum action as they are an incidental by-catch while dunking clams on the beach for stripers,” Anthony wrote this week, adding “That surf striper action is also red hot with fish being caught from the beaches of Atlantic City down to Cape May on clam and bunker.” He said beaches, bridges, sod banks and jetties are also giving up weakfish and blues.

In Delaware, Eric Burnley told us that some of the bayshore hotspots (Broadkill and Augustine for example) are producing a few striped bass and black drum, while reporting that the boomers are hitting at the Coral Beds as well for those with boats in the water. “The surf showed signs of life with trout, blues, kings and small striped bass,” Eric recommended for those who prefer to keep their feet on the sands.

Just another reminder that fluke season opens in New Jersey this Friday, May 22; flounder if you will for most Atlantic and Cape May County regulars. If you’re fishing where my daughter and I will be along the fluke/flounder border in Great Bay, make sure you bring your bug spray!

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